Monday, September 24, 2012

Grand Tetons and Flaming Gorge

As we leave Yellowstone, we drive through the Grand Teton National Park.  The two parks are essentially joined and this is probably the most scenic route south to our next destination.  We decide not to stay in Grand Teton because of forest fire smoke, which is limiting visibility of the views.
Marilyn overlooking the smoke-filled Grand Tetons
We lunch at Cathedral View or Turnout or Cathedral something.  Here is a view of the Teton range including Grand Teton itself at over 13,700 feet.  We can see glaciers on some of these mountains.  But the smoke is causing such a haze, it is difficult to see anything clearly.  At least the drive is easy, through the valley with the Tetons to the west.  There are also many lakes, and we drive alongside Jenny Lake which reflects the mountains as blurs on the rippled water.  I can imagine how beautiful it must be here in the spring before forest fires develop and disturb the clarity of the sky and air.

We continue south down Highway 191 towards Flaming Gorge.  We decide to stop overnight at a wildlife marker overlooking the Big Sandy River (we see no wildlife at the river), but what a lovely view.  The sign posting tells us that 40,000 to 60,000 Pronghorn Antelope migrate through here every year, trekking from the Tetons north of us to Rock Springs, WY just to our south.  We do see many antelope in the lands east and west of the highway.  This is called the "high desert" meaning we are at a high elevation, but the landscape is desert-like with only grasslands and brush.  It's hard to believe wildlife can exist out here, but numerous animals do like the antelope as well as mule deer, and coyotes, and in more desolate areas, mountain lions and bears.  There are also interesting birds like magpies and mountain bluebirds everywhere.

In the morning, I awake to find a dead mouse laying on the living room carpet.  Grady has finally earned his keep.  There must have been a battle with this creature as he has spilled his water.  Neither Brad nor I heard the commotion in the night as we wear earplugs to sleep when we are near a roadway.  At least Grady didn't bring this one to bed with us, but while I get up and find this poor dead creature, Grady is still in bed, under the covers, sleeping after his late-night hunt!

At the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, we find the campground on the east side of the Gorge closed, so we spend a couple of days camped in the adjacent boat launch parking area, beside the gorge.  Here there are trees, picnic tables and firerings.  The landscape here is phenominal with dry, rocky hills rising from the water, dotted with sage brush and the odd small green bush.  There are a pair of Grebes floating in the bay, and Brad disturbs a sleeping coyote on a walk along the "beach".  The silence here is deafening, with only the twitter of birds, the woosh of their wings and the buzzing of a few insects to disturb our thoughts.
Reservoir at Firehole Canyon in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
Many boaters come and go as it is the weekend.  We use this time to rest before heading further south to the Flaming Gorge Dam.  This lake is a reservoir, dammed for power in the early 1900s.  We drop the trailer in the parking lot of the Visitors Center at the dam, and drive up the mountains to see Red Canyon and the Sheep Creek Geological Loop, a drive that takes several hours.

Red Canyon is exactly as it name predicts.  From the viewpoints overlooking the lake, the opposite cliffs are bright red, rising about 500 feet from the clear water.  This is a boater's paradise, and we can see many fishermen skimming the surface.  It is very unfortunate that the day is cloudy because this mutes the colours, so we are determined to return in subsequent years.
Red Canyon in the Flaming Gorge NRA, Utah

Aspens turning gold, Flaming Gorge NRA, Utah

The drive along the Sheep Creek Geological Loop takes us through an incredible canyon with yellow and red sandstone towering above us.  The feeling is one of timelessness and we come to realize that we are just a brief blemish on the face of this ever-changing, ancient planet.  We can see that some of the rock cliffs have been pushed into vertical faces, others are at a 45 degree angle to the ground, and others are bent into curves around an imaginery sphere, making us appreciate the forces at work underground.  The effect of the contours and colours is awe-inspiring.  I wish I could draw or write a song, or something artistic that could capture the spirit of this place better than a photo and these brief, inadequate words.
Uplifted rock along the Sheep Creek Geological Loop Road


  1. I love your descriptions... who said you need to put it to music? Did you look up late at night at the Milky Way? I got my lasik done because I just couldn't see it as well as Diane. The second time through there I could actually see the stars! WhoooHooo!

  2. we thought Flaming Gorge was beautiful and wish we could have stayed long enough to make it worth putting the boat in the water. Our cat has killed or scared off 3 mice in our 3 years of travel. Very handy!

    1. Yes, cats are very handy. He killed TWO more last night. We may have to take some time to figure out how and where they're getting in, although Grady is having fun!